Golf

Rory taking backseat to compatriot

GolfWeek By Alistair Tait
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The 2013 European Tour is turning into a tale of two Northern Irishmen. One can do no wrong; the other can’t do much right.

Graeme McDowell is the man who can do no wrong. Chalk up another win for the man from Portrush. G-Mac’s French Open victory Sunday takes his tally of W’s to three this season. Rory McIlroy, the other Northern Irishman, is still waiting for his first.

Who would have predicted that at the start of the season?

McDowell added the French title to wins in the Volvo World Match Play Championship in Bulgaria and the RBC Heritage on the PGA Tour. McIlroy’s best finish so far this season is second in the Valero Texas Open.

McIlroy did not play in France. He was busy testing drivers to try to find one that can help him contend at Muirfield, site of the Open Championship later this month. He had a new Nike driver in the bag for last week’s Irish Open but missed the cut.

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While Rory’s season so far has been pretty much a bust, McDowell’s has either been boom or bust. G-Mac missed the cut in Ireland, too, but bounced back with the win in France. That’s been the pattern so far this year. He either wins or he misses the cut.

Of his last eight tournaments, he has five MC’s and three W’s.

“It’s been a funny year,” McDowell said. “My game has not felt far away most weeks, but I have missed a lot more cuts than normal and missing cuts hurts.

“It certainly motivated me a lot the last few weeks. The US Open was a tough one to take, and missing the cut in Ireland last week made me more hungry.”

G-Mac’s pattern doesn’t bode well for his chances in the Open Championship at Muirfield, his next event. He needs to rip up the 2013 blueprint before he turns up just south of Edinburgh on July 18.

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Many expected the 33-year-old to contend at Merion for the US Open, but scores of 76 and 77 saw him miss the cut by five shots. Many will also fancy him to win this year’s Open Championship. He came close last year, finishing fifth.

McDowell is obviously a bona fide major champion. His 2010 US Open win at Pebble Beach was no fluke, but he took some time to come to terms with winning his first and so far only major title.

“I feel like I've learned a lot from this process that I've gone through the last 2-1/2 years after winning the US Open,” he said. “Getting comfortable with deserving that US Open, getting comfortable with the player that I was trying to become and was at that point, acclimatizing myself to being in the top 10, top 20, top 30 in the world, winning tournaments, new equipment. Just really a new status in the game.”

Three wins this season justifies his status in the game. (He should move from ninth to sixth on the Official World Golf Ranking following the win in Paris.) He’s definitely acclimated to major-champion status.

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There is no doubting McIlroy is a bona fide major champion, too. However, at this stage in the season the smart money would say McDowell has a better chance of success at Muirfield than his younger compatriot.

If G-Mac can alter the pattern of win/missed cut, then he might be a force to be reckoned with at Muirfield. So can Rory, if he’s finally found a driver he’s comfortable with.

It’s going to be interesting to see which Northern Irishman comes out on top.

Tagged: Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy

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